Since today is Thanksgiving in the United States and I live in the United States, I thought it would be a good day to mention gratitude. I have a quote that says, "Gratitude is the best attitude." So true.
We start to teach our children about gratitude at a young age. When they first start to say "Thank you," they most likely don't know what it really means. Lack of understanding doesn't mean you can't teach them correct behavior. Understanding of behavior usually follows learning the actions of it for children.
If you have a young baby, my advice to you is to tell your child "Thank You" every chance you get. Modeling behavior is a great way to teach it. I discovered that I say thank you a lot. One of Brayden's first words was "Thank you." He used it correctly and has been good at it ever since. I since noticed that I thank for everything. Kaitlyn has turned out the same. She thanks, and thanks even more efficiently. Since she talks in complete sentences, she says, "Thank you for my milk, Mama." How sweet!
One thing I realized I wasn't good at was saying "please." When I asked for things, my tone and choice of phrasing implied 'please,' but I wasn't good at saying it. I have had to train Brayden to say please, and it is something I frequently remind him of to this day (not necessarily unreasonably, but more than I would if I had modeled it for him).
I vowed to do better, and I did. It took and takes effort on my part to add please when I ask for something, but I am doing it! Kaitlyn is just as good at 'please' as she is 'thank you.' This has shown me how strong of an impact modeling during the first year is on your child. And remember, you can also sign all along so they can sign if they aren't verbal early on (see Sign Language : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/03/sign-language.html).
We have had several lessons this month on gratitude with our children. After one lesson, we got out a huge piece of paper. The family gathered around and drew pictures of things we were thankful for. It started off slowly, but Brayden quickly caught on and started drawing item after item without pausing to think. This is how gratitude works. When we think with a grateful heart, it is easy for us to recognize the many things we have to be thankful for. We focus on the good rather than the bad. Teaching your child to be grateful is teaching your child one secret to being happy.